St Justin Martyr: Are You a Lover of Words or of Deeds and of Truth?

Feast of St Justin the Martyr and Philosopher

Justin_Martyr_Square_3.jpegAS I WAS in this frame of mind and desired absolute solitude devoid of human distractions, I used to take myself to a certain spot not far from the sea. One day, as I approached that place with the intention of being alone, a respectable old man, of meek and venerable appearance, followed me at a short distance. I stopped, turned quickly, and stared at him.

“Do you know me?” he asked.

“I do not,” I replied.

“Why, therefore, “ he continued, “do you stare at me so?”

“Because,” I answered, “I am surprised to find you here. I didn’t expect to see anyone here.”

“I am worried,” he said, “about some missing members of my household, and I am therefore looking around in the hope that they may show up somewhere in the vicinity. But what brings you here?”

“I take great delight,” I answered, “in such walks, where I can converse with myself without hindrance because there is nothing to distract my attention. Places like this are most suitable for philology.”

“Are you, then,” he asked, “a lover of words, rather than a lover of deeds and of truth? Do you not strive to be a practical man rather than a sophist?”

“But what greater deed,” I replied, “could one perform than to prove that reason rules all, and that one who rules reason and is sustained by it can look down upon the errors and undertakings of others, and see that they do nothing reasonable or pleasing to God. Man cannot have prudence without philosophy and straight thinking. Thus, every man should be devoted to philosophy and should consider it the greatest and most noble pursuit; all other pursuits are only of second- or third-rate value, unless they are connected with philosophy. Then they are of some value and should be approved; if they are devoid of philosophy and are not connected with it in any way, they then become base and coarse pursuits to those who practice them.”

Interrupting, he asked, “Does philosophy therefore produce happiness?”

“Absolutely,” I replied, “and it alone.”

“Tell me,” he asked, “what is philosophy and what is the happiness it engenders, if there is nothing which prevents your speaking?”

“Philosophy,” I answered, “is the knowledge of that which exists, and a clear understanding of the truth; and happiness is the reward of such knowledge and understanding.”

“But how do you define God?” he asked.
“God is the Being who always has the same nature in the same manner, and is the cause of existence of all else,” I replied.

~St. Justin the Martyr and Philosopher, Dialogue with Trypho


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